June 26th, DCA
Studio Ghbili’s timeless animated classic Spirited Away returns to the big screen for the one-off, week-long event “Studio Ghibli Forever”, celebrating the release of the studio’s (supposed) last film, When Marnie Was There.
Spirited Away tells the tale of a young girl named Chihiro (Rumi Hiiragi) who, whilst exploring her new neighbourhood and its surroundings, finds herself in what she believes is an abandoned amusement park. However, this abandoned plaza is revealed as a gateway to an alternate spirit realm ruled by the witch Yubaba (Mari Natsuki). Chihiro finds herself caught up between the two realms as her parents are transformed into pigs, lead into a tempting trap for humans that the witch has set. The film then follows this ten-year old as she experiences a trial like no other in order to defeat the witch and save her parents.
The standout factor that makes Studio Ghibli produced films so powerful and moving is the message that they carry and the lessons they teach. Revisiting this modern classic, after I waded through the child-like nostalgia, I realised things that weren’t so clear to my younger self: little messages concealed within the dialogue;, some really hard-hitting philosophies and points are made that even viewed as an adult carry a substantial weight behind them. Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, similar to most Studio Ghibli films, is certainly not a kids film simply because it is animated. Some imagery is simply haunting and seeing it again made me wonder how I didn’t have any sustained fears stemming from the characters and settings. No-Face/Kaonashi, for example, was such a chilling presence to begin with as the silent stranger watching and obsessing over Chihiro. The resolution of the film really shows Chihiro’s strength going up against some truly hideous foes, and this is where the film’s power comes from. You come out not only feeling satisfied, but safe and fulfilled in a way that is difficult to put into words.
Along with the sense of fulfilment when the smooth and beautiful score began to play and the credits eclipsed the screen, came a multitude of revelations. The fact that no villain remained a villain in the end was something I’d never picked up on. Every single character has an individual journey that is in-depth and interesting enough that they could easily have their own film.The negative emotions or experiences they had, or the audience had towards them initially, went through a kind of cinematic metamorphosis. It’s hard to consider a character, even Chihiro, towards whom you felt a positivity or were instantly drawn to when she first appeared on-screen. Every character within Spirited Away is flawed and in their own imperfect way they are beautiful, and that is how I felt as I left my seat in the cinema.
Miyazaki’s Spirited Away truly is a masterpiece that will not be forgotten anytime soon. It was immensely pleasing to see the number of children that were in the screening alongside me. The sheer fact that I was conscious tickets were hard to come by for this sole screening of a Studio Ghibli classic, at 9am on a weekend, told me that the parents had felt such a strong need to not only experience this cinematic achievement again, but allow their children the amazing opportunity to experience it on the big screen. During the screening it was almost complete silence throughout to my astonishment. A subtitled foreign film being able to capture the attention of young children for over two hours is truly a worthy accomplishment in itself. I love this film, and I want each generation to be introduced to it and love it in their own way and for their own reasons. I firmly believe this is a cinematic triumph that everyone should witness at least once.